I found this church two weeks ago thanks to an inner tug and a sense of history. No research, map or guide. Just a few free hours to spend in Atlanta and a sudden longing to find the place where he found the steam to make his engine roll, roll, roll victoriously, bravely and humbly.
Spying a church so familiar to me, and yet I didn’t know that I’d know it. But I did.
Parking the car, I walked alone in a profound haze of respect and trepidation. A simple neon sign above the front doors, so different than the Catholic Churches of my youth, European churches of my wanderings. Yet, it fit. We are here it beckoned.
Met by a uniformed National Parks Service guide, I was pointed towards a carpeted set of stairs that led me up and over and around, emerging to a low ceilinged space.
Getting my bearings, I realized I stood at the back of the church, looking straight ahead at the stage, pulpit & choir chairs where MLK Jr. preached.
My heart lurched to hear the crackle of old recordings that played his most famous speeches and sermons, and to soak in the enormous power of this place, I sat in the nearest pew. Wooden. Simple. No adornment, no gold nor glitter. Worn by the hands, sweat, prayers and toil of the good people of solid faith who came to listen, hope and dream.
Finally able to walk steadily, I discreetly turned on my flip video gadget and held it in front of me as I walked the path of the most faithful, down the aisle, past the pulpit, choir chairs and turned to see his view: two floors of cramped seating, modestly lit by simple stained glass windows, and the lingering energy of the beating pounding hearts of the souls who stood, prayed, swayed, sang and marched.
Never have I felt a place so solemn and so moving.
To his courage, his bravery, his resolve and his faith: I Have A Dream.
So, on this horrible day that ripped away a good, god-fearing American icon, I feel the tremor of waste still, nearly 50 years later.